By Surya Fernandez
We've been hearing nonstop speculation this past week that the Miami Heat woud be a top choice for many free agents once they would be free to sign with teams. With Mike Miller's injury woes continuing, the Heat's roster needs have grown. And let's face it, if you scan the list of the free agents available there's some slim pickings out there. Not helping matters is that the Heat won't have first dibs on amnesty cuts because they're not under the salary cap.
But fear not, help could be on the way. Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Heat may have the inside track on nabbing Shane Battier, one of the top players available in a weak class.
Battier has been a primary target in free agency for the Heat, and sources say the pitch of Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra and key Heat players could ultimately confirm Battier's strong feelings about chasing a championship in Miami.
Riley and Spoelstra see Battier as a strong defender with an ability to hit the open shots that'll come his way playing with James, Wade and Chris Bosh. He's been a proven playoff performer, and possesses the professionalism and maturity to navigate within the harsh glare of the Heat's existence.
I know what you're thinking, another 6'8" forward in his 30s? Take solace that Battier played in every game last season and would be a great locker room presence and provide another defensive option to take the load off of LeBron or Wade, yet also to step and take a charge or hit a timely jumper. Throw in his leadership and veteran savvy and the Heat woud have a versatile player comfortable off the bench or capable of stepping up and playing starter's minutes when needed.
Battier, 33, is still studying the marketplace, and how his personal scenario could change as different teams use the amnesty clause to create salary-cap space. Nevertheless, Miami currently stands as the most compelling option for him.
Battier would a portion – or all – of Miami's midlevel exception. Depending on the Heat's maneuvering above or below the luxury-tax threshold, he could be eligible for up to a four-year, $20 million contract or a three-year, $9.4 million deal under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement.
Miami has had strong interest in free-agent center Samuel Dalembert, but sources said it's doubtful he would accept a midlevel exception at the expense of more lucrative offers available elsewhere. The Heat could use a portion of the midlevel to lure free-agent center Kwame Brown, who is strongly considering Miami. The Charlotte Bobcats also are pushing to hold onto Brown.
Woj may be on to something about Dalembert at a time when other free agent centers like Nene and Tyson Chandlers are practically demanding max contracts. Then again, Dalembert must have been aware that the Heat couldn't offer him a huge contract when he expressed interest in the team last week.
Other free agent targets reportedly include J.J. Barea, Maurice Evans, Caron Butler, Grant Hill and Josh Howard.
Get more great Miami Heat analysis over at Hot Hot Hoops.